An Unearthly Child – 1963 – S1 – E1/8

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Number : Season 1, Episode 1 of 8.

Which one : The pilot.

Cast : Doctor : William Hartnell
Susan : Carol Ann Ford
Ian : William Russell
Barbara : Jacquelline Bissett
Za : Derek Newark
Hur : Alethea Charlton
Old Mother : Eileen Way
Kal : Jeremy Young
Horg : Howard Lang

Written By : Anthony Coburn

Produced By : Verity Lamb

Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.

Parts :
1) “An Unearthly Child”
2) “The Cave Of Skulls”
3) “The Forest Of Fear”
4) “The Firemaker”

First Broadcast : 23 November – 14 December 1963.

Plot : Coalhill School teachers; Ian and Barbara, both tutor an acceptionally gifted but impossibly naive young girl – called Susan Foreman. They decide to follow her home to meet her guardian and wind- up being kidnapped by a time-travelling alien called “The Doctor”.

Whats good : We meet the 1st Doctor and Susan, hiding out in Foreman’s junkyard. There is still a tangible air of mystery behind the characters at this stage. Susan belittling her intellectually inferior school colleagues, with learning of genius proportions but unable to grasp which currency is in circulation – in 1963.

Whats bad : Clunky slow episode, doesn’t yet understand what it wants to be. Some things introduced here, are later abandoned – in favour of a revised backstory. I.e. Susan naming the Tardis. Hartnell doesn’t do that much after the 1st episode, leaving the meat of the story, action and important dialogue for captive companion – Ian.

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Review With Spoilers :An Unearthly Child is the first ever episode of Who and pilot, it was broadcast the day after the (J.F.K) Kennedy assassination.

And this pilot is like baking a cake, without a recipe to follow. All of the basic ingredients are present but the final cake seems to not be quite right and it requires a bit more time and practice.

The setup is good, introducing us to exceptionally bright but mysterious Susan and the interplay between their suspicious teachers; Ian & Barbara.

Most of the first part is seen through Ian & Barbara’s eyes. As they follow Susan home and meet her eccentric Grandfather. Uncovering bit-by-bit, who these junkyard squatters are and why they are hiding out in a junkyard.

What is not present here, is a sense of what the show will build into – over the next 27 years. As explanations are muddled and certain given things are later abandoned and forgotten about.

i.e. Inventing the name; Tardis (after Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). Rather than the fact a whole fleet of them already exists. The notion of the Doctor being a family man; never covered again after this, bar fleeting references.

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“We are not of this race. We are not of this earth. Susan and I are wanderers in the fourth dimension of space and time, cut off from our own people by distances beyond the reach of your most advanced science!” Doctor

Even the first trip in the Tardis is painfully grinding and feels like the end scenes of 2001 Space Odyssey, with its multicoloured lightshow.

On the plus, the feel is about right and we even get a reasonably entertaining romp back to caveman times, which is much more interesting than some of the later boring period romps.

Hartnell spends much of the episode trying to find his feet in the role and hasn’t quite mastered the fine line between tetchy and endearing – just yet.

A reasonable opener to the beginning of a 50-year phenomena.

🔵🔵🔵⚪⚪ (3/5)

Old Doctor Who


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